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Thirteen Days

Starring Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp
Written by David Self
Directed by Roger Donaldson

IN SHORT: Engaging history, even with Costner in the title role <g>. [Rated PG-13 for brief strong language. 145 minutes]

We remember the Cuban Missile Crisis [of 1962] about as clearly as we remember last week. Not at all. But we did waste twenty years of our life nostril deep in conspiracy theories about JFK's assassination, including dissertation like analysis papers of who had it in for the Prez and why. We mention this not because Thirteen Days has a political point to make about what happened in Dallas but because if you are still nostril deep, there are enough seeds planted in David Self's script that you'll come out of the theater, as some friends of ours did, saying "See!? SEE??!!"

This film is not specifically about John Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), though it is about the reactions of President Kennedy to the real life discovery of Soviet missles in Cuba, after assurances from the USSR that they had no intention of doing so. The President, an office that had traditionally relied on the advice of the military in these matters, was not prepared to take their advice literally on matters of Cuba. There had been a military action called the Bay of Pigs which had not gone as smoothly as he was assured it would. And this particular President was more inclined to trust his advisors. His brother, Robert (Steven Culp) and the focus of Thirteen Days, Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner) .

A Special Advisor to the President, Kenny O'Donnell is not an imaginary character. The real O'Donnell worked in the office next to JFK and had history with the Kennedy boys dating back to his college days at Harvard with RFK. Historically, he is described as one of the few men who had direct and influential access to the President's ear, and we'll leave History right there. As with all historical films, this one also carries the "composite character and events" warning. There is only one event that made us sit up and take notice in that "I don't remember reading about that" way. Dramatically, it's too significant a moment to spill but if it did indeed happen, a blanket called "national security" would have dropped down so fast that it's more than likely that no one outside of the inner circle of those days would have leaked it.

Nowadays they'd be cutting book deals.

What builds Thirteen Days into a real nail biter is the stuff that more than likely never made it to your (high school) history books. The political infighting. The military resentment of all things Kennedy, especially their embarrasment over the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Joseph Kennedy's involvement with the Munich Pact, which appeased Hitler and ultimately led to WWII. Even if all you know is that the US and the Soviet Union went nose to nose over the presence of missiles in Cuba, there are enough twists and turns in the historical "reality" to keep you more than interested in the story, even if it is told at a leisurely pace.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Thirteen Days, he would have paid...


A Kevin Costner performance, for the first time in a long time, didn't put us to sleep.

ADDENDUM: When first posted, in time for Christmas, we rushed and incorrectly had this listed at $6.50. We're not kissing butt. We made a mistake and this rating is correct.

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